Remsen Review: Catholic Boy hits the mark as Kentucky Derby contender

Dec 06, 2017 by James Scully/

Visually awesome striding away to a 4 ¾-length decision, Catholic Boy impressed on multiple fronts in the December 2 Remsen (G2) at Aqueduct. The 2-year-old registered a commendable 98 BRIS Speed rating switching from turf to dirt for the Road to the Kentucky Derby series qualifier and netted a 109 BRIS Late Pace number that bodes well for his future.

Negative connotations surround the Remsen since it hasn’t produced a Kentucky Derby victor in more than 20 years (Thunder Gulch in 1995). Many don’t think the 1 1/8-mile distance lends itself to up-and-coming talented types who connections prefer to ease into longer-distance races the following spring and while it’s hard to argue with the recent history, Kentucky Derby winners can come from anywhere. Previous results won’t hold down Catholic Boy, who doesn’t fit the profile of the last 22 Remsen winners.

A debut winner on Gulfstream Park’s turf last July, Catholic Boy showed precocity winning his first two outings including an excellent tally in the 1 1/16-mile With Anticipation (G2) on Saratoga’s turf.  Trainer Jonathan Thomas, a longtime assistant to two-time Kentucky Derby winner Todd Pletcher, shipped his pupil to Del Mar for the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf (G1) and Catholic Boy rallied well for fourth, beaten only 1 ½ lengths, after experiencing a troubled trip in the early going.

His versatility showed in the Remsen and as Animal Kingdom proved making his dirt debut in the 2011 Kentucky Derby, horses who handle turf can take to the main track at Churchill Downs.

While racing at four different venues so far, Catholic Boy has increased his winning margin or made up ground in the stretch every time. He runs from off the pace but is no dedicated closer, preferring to race in midpack within five lengths of the early lead.

A son of More Than Ready, the top side of his pedigree is slanted toward speed but Catholic Boy appears to be receiving a healthy dose of stamina from his female family, being out a mare by Preakness and Travers (G1) winner Bernardini with Seeking the Gold as the second maternal damsire.

Thomas said they chose turf early on because the key for Catholic Boy was getting “a route of ground” and the Kentucky-bred has raced exclusively at two-turn distances.

Distance and surface don’t matter and you can count on a strong finishing kick from a colt who won’t leave himself too much to do from off the pace. Catholic Boy is just getting started on the Kentucky Derby trail and there’s plenty to like about the exciting prospect at this stage.

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